The dyeing day
IT all started with my father developing an age complex. When he got his first born married, he didn’t feel the age syndrome. When his first grandchild appeared on the scene he was slightly shaken and insisted on being called a non-committal name like “Lallu”. When he retired, he said it had nothing to do with age as he wanted more time to play tennis anyway. As a doctor, he believes that age is a state of mind and has nothing to do with years, or grandchildren or pension or any extraneous phenomena – so he thought till I visited him last month after a gap of two years. He took one look at my graying hair and said, ”God! I’m growing old.”
I could appreciate his distress as that was my first reaction when the streaks appeared in my hair. But familiarity with my appearance had bred acceptance. Friends and relatives had stopped reacting with exclamations ranging from “oh, you’ve greyed“ to “you are aging fast“ to “you look distinguished.” My husband seemed quite content with my wise look and my sons secure in the comfort of my “maternal streaks.”
But not father. ”You can’t go around looking this way- what will my friends think? You make me feel ancient. You must dye your hair.” Throughout my weeks stay with him, father harped on his growing old. At the dining table, when we were playing cards, while chatting in the drawing room – I’d catch his gloomy expression, his eyes dwelling on my grey hair. Even my mother intervened with a “why don’t you do as father says? So many women do it and there’s no harm - you get such good dyes.”
When l left, father gave me a gift wrapped box and said “open it when you go back”. He actually looked a couple of years older –or was it my imagination? When l got back, l opened the box and was amused to find a bottle of hair rinse! Father had bought it from a “smuggler”.
My filial obligations overcome my resistance and armed with the bottle, I stepped into the beauty parlour down the street. In the evening, my husband took one look at my bouncing black hair and exclaimed ”what have you done to yourself“ (like I’d smeared myself with war paint). My son’s reaction was even more scathing and our dog silky barked his disapproval. I hastily scribbled a letter to my father asking him to go ahead and feel young again.
Later in the evening my friend Usha called and my son who was seething with rejection – his contention was that I was trying not to look like I was mother… without any preamble, told Usha, ”Mummy dyed....” click and the phone went dead. Half an hour later, there was a persistent ring and we wondered who it could be at that hour. I opened the door to find Usha and her family who nearly swooned when they saw me! We all had a hearty laugh when Usha explained that they thought my son said. “Mummy died“ and had rushed to console him and my hubby. ”Thank God only your hair dyed!“ she said , patting my jet black head.